Core Best Fantasy Lists
Best Sellers
Best Yearly Lists
Best Decade Lists
Best Thematic Lists
Best Subgenre Lists
Award Winners
Games Guides
Film Guides

Arcane Fantasy Books

Magic and science exist in the world simultaneously—they are two separate fields, but complement each other and are used together. Magic is wondrous and when its combined with technology, absolutely revolutionary.

Arcanepunk Fantasy Characteristics

  • Level of Magic

Moderate. Magic is distinct from science and technology, it is a force all its own, but it is also used in conjunction with technology. Magic is incredibly functional and its power can be harnessed. In the Arcanepunk world magic and science have evolved together and are generally at least at the late 19th century level. The world then is filled with people who have access to both magic and science—though not all are scientists and wizards.

  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications

Moderate. Arcanepunk isn't exactly full of grand and philosophical ideas that will transform your soul—but it is highly imaginative and it does expose readers to new possibilities. 

There is usually something dark, or sinister, or not quite what it seems lurking beneath the surface of the Arcanepunk world (dystopia alert!). And you can bet that its revelation will accompany some pretty serious social implications. 

  • Level of Characterization

Variable. Arcanepunk is defined more by its setting than its characters. But, the most widely used character is the broody, anti-hero who usually has a snarky wit. Otherwise, authors have free range with their character types and development. One type of character that sometimes features in Arcanepunk is the spunky heroine type.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

Moderate-High. Arcanepunk has a tendency to take the form of thrillers or mysteries—stories that are jammed with plot twists and startling reveals.

  • Level of Violence 

Variable. There is likely to be some level of violence within the story—somehow violence seems to popup whenever that punk attitude is present. The degree of violence can vary quite widely though, ranging from the relatively PG to the incredibly graphic.

Popular Arcane Fantasy Books Books

By Stephen Kenson et. al. These books, of which several authors have contributed, are based on the popular RPG game, Shadowrun. The series combines cybernetics, magic, and fantasty creatures.

By Devon Monk. In this world, magic comes with a cost. This series follows Allie, who hunts down people who use magic, and offload its cost onto innocents.

By China Miéville. The cycle blends multiple genres, including Steampunk, Sci Fi, and Horror. Magic is commonplace and practiced by skilled professionals.

By Walter Jon Williams. The world has been encased in a barrier that seems to be both scientific and magical—there is no night or day, or even seasons, people divide time into shifts. There is a magical substance that has some very practical applications.

By Randall Garrett. Alternate history, a Sherlock Holmesian character, and some pretty practical magic, all taking place at a wizards' convention.

By Harry Turtledove. This series is the story of WWII, only in a completely different world where magic is very functional and has advanced alongside technology and even includes a storyline about the magical version of the Manhattan project.

By Robert A. Heinlein. Magic, Inc. Magic is just another mundane part of the world, and there is a whole bureaucracy surrounding it.

By Michael Swanwick. This is a dark story about a girl who slaves in a dragon factory, building monsters that are part magical and part cybernetic.

By Martin Scott. The protagonist is a private investigator, failed sorcery student, and skilled swordsman with a comedic attitude. The world features other races (orcs, elves, other magical creatures).

The Death Gate Cycle

y Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. A nuclear war mutated humanity into several new, and powerful races. Ships are powered by rune magic, elves use magic to enchant armor and household appliances.